The White Tears Patrol
Hi there Rob, looks like you’re having some trouble.
It looks like someone recommended that you read books by women or dark people or whatever, and that prompted you to ask the question that’s on a lot of white dudes’ minds: ‘I’m Straight, White, and Male — Now What?’.
Writing that post was a brave step. Admitting that you are having trouble talking about discrimination is a hurdle that some people never get over.
You seem like a good sport, so I’m going to be pretty direct with you here. I hope you don’t mind.
Let’s start with the end of your post, where you said this:
If you’re going to make me feel bad about being a white male…
Actually, nobody is making you feel bad. You’re doing that all on your own.
All anyone is doing is asking that you recognize that things like racism and sexism exist, and that sometimes you benefit from them. If your first response to that is to get defensive, then that has nothing to do with anyone but you. Your questions need to start with your own emotional reactions.
But to get you started, I’ll let you in on a secret: there is no ‘White Tears Patrol’ that prowls the Internet, seeking only to make white dudes feel bad.
Nobody wants your guilt. It doesn’t help anyone.
Like, if you offered black lesbians everywhere the choice between a magic wand to give them equal pay and a chance to see you cry bitter, bitter tears — they’d choose the first one. Every time.
That’s because this has nothing to do with you. But you missed that.
You spent the entire time talking about yourself,
and your problems, and your guilt.
In fact, you used the first person (I, me, my, etc) in your piece seventy-seven times. Not counting your block quotes, about 8 percent of your keystrokes are you pointing to yourself. You used the word ‘I’ more often than ‘a’ or ‘the’.
Visually, this is what the pronouns look like in your piece, along with a few high-frequency keywords, with size corresponding to frequency of use:
The article that prompted your post was about racism, sexism, and homophobia in the world of literature. And you managed to make the entire thing about you. A writer simply recommended that you try listening to someone other than straight white dudes, and you proceeded to get on the internet and write about yourself as a straight white dude.
Someone tried to spotlight others for once, and you came in sounding like a Kendrick Lamar video.
I don’t mean to single you out, though, because this is really common. When the topic of bias against others comes up, lots of people immediately start talking about themselves.
Or, they deny that they’re part of society, like you did here:
if you’re going to lump me in with a group of power merchants I’m not a part of…
I guess by ‘power merchants’, you mean cartoon villains like Donald Sterling? People that you can comfortably point to and say, ‘but I’m not as bad as he is’?
Yo, I hate to break it to you, but sometimes you’re going to get ‘lumped in’ with people, because you are part of them, in that you get the same preferential treatment that they do.
Like you, I’m a guy, and I don’t have to deal with being sexually harassed on the street. When I open my mouth in a meeting, nobody disregards what I say because of my gender. I’ve also gotten preferential treatment over women, mostly without me even noticing. I acknowledge that. So, say, if a woman taps me on the shoulder (or yells at me) and says I’m being a jerk, here’s what I (try to) do: I fall back, chill out, and listen. That’s the most anyone has ever asked of me, and it seems pretty fair.
I can tell you were nervous about writing your post.
Mostly, you seemed to be worried about offending people with your phrasing. And honestly, you did a pretty good job up until the end. But you really dropped the ball with this line:
…if you’re going to insinuate that what I do is somehow less valuable because I’m a straight white guy, then at the very least, you should provide a solution. Or a part of one. Or something.
You’ve already recognized that people are treated unfairly, which is a big step in the right direction. But to then demand that those same people lead you by the hand and coddle you into righteousness is not only unfair, it’s actually insulting. Both to them, and to yourself.
I happen to be an educator by trade. But not every minority/woman/ LGBT/whatever person is. Some are painters, or stock brokers, or truck drivers. Some don’t have the time or the patience to explain things nicely to you, especially when there is a wealth of information out there if you would just look.
At the very least, if you want someone to provide a solution to you in an easily digestible format, you should do what you do for all other solution providers — pay them up front. Seriously. You’re aware of the pay inequalities, so don’t demand free labor. There are books you can buy and classes that you can take.
Not everyone is willing to do your homework for you, so please respect that. Odds are that they’ve been on the receiving end of this ‘conversation’, way too many times:
Think about it this way: people get assaulted, get denied employment, get denied access to good food and healthcare, and get put into prison for being born a particular way. And when they dare to bring it up, they are called troublemakers, are called liars, or have things (freedom, housing, life) taken away from them.
And you’re worried that someone on the Internet might be rude to you?
If they can deal, you can deal.
Like I said, you’re on the right track, and you seem to be able to roll with the punches.
That’s why I hope you believe me when I say that I’m in your corner. I want to encourage you to listen. Not to talk, but to listen. There’s nothing wrong with wanting help, or wanting to enter a conversation. But there is something wrong with barging into a conversation with your fists swinging and your mouth running. Put your hands down, attach your lower lip to your upper one, and start from there.
If others can do it, so can you.